How to Help Children with Urinary Incontinence at School

Children washing their hands at a bathroom school, working against urinary incontinence at school.

By Dr. Wolfgang Cerwinka, M.D.

More than 90% of children will be toilet trained at the age of 5 years. At that age, the most common type of incontinence is bed wetting or enuresis. Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine and may be caused by a variety of reasons. Bed wetting may be the sole problem or may occur together with daytime urinary incontinence.

If bed wetting is associated with daytime urinary incontinence at school, it may be regarded as the nightly expression of the same problem that occurs during waking hours. Therefore, that issue will respond well to the treatment of daytime urinary incontinence.

Learn more about daytime urinary incontinence at school below!

What Causes Urinary Incontinence at School?

Gaining control over bladder and bowel is a process that depends on normal anatomy (e.g., normal bladder size), function (e.g., the normal ability of the bladder to relax when storing urine) and learned behavior (e.g., ability to sense a full bladder). Bladder and bowel problems occur often together and are summarized under the term bladder-bowel dysfunction (BBD).

The reason for this association is that bladder and rectum share the same embryological origin, the same nervous control, and are located in close proximity. It is easy to imagine how a full rectum with constipation that is located behind the bladder will reduce the space for the bladder to hold urine. Therefore, bladder and bowel problems should be managed in concert. Since behavior and learning are an important part of gaining bladder and bowel control, patients with behavioral (e.g, ADHD) and learning disabilities are often diagnosed with BBD. Training the bladder and bowel is a process that will take time and requires patience.

Children with urinary continence at school typically suffer from urgency incontinence (inability to postpone voiding). These children are initially managed by prolonged toilet training and eventually will see their pediatrician who, if comfortable with this problem, will implement basic treatment. If urinary incontinence persists and is deemed socially unacceptable, patients are referred to a pediatric urologist.

At Georgia Pediatric Urology, patients are seen in the HAWK (“Help Awaiting Wet Kids”) Clinic, which was specifically established for the treatment of BBD. Extended clinic visits allow finding the correct diagnosis and time to discuss treatment options in detail. At the initial clinic visit, besides obtaining the medical history and performing a physical exam, basic tests will be done such as a urinalysis (urinary tract infection may cause incontinence), a renal-bladder ultrasound (verify a normal anatomy), a postvoid residual ultrasound (verify complete bladder emptying) and a uroflow test (verify normal urine flow from the bladder).

How Do You Treat Daytime Urinary Incontinence at School?

Management of urinary incontinence is initially empiric and a step-wise process. This means that treatment is based on what in our experience works best, and, if urinary incontinence persists, to include other treatment options. Basic management encompasses behavioral and dietary modifications and to work with the school to allow children to visit the bathroom as necessary. Further, balancing fluid intake, reducing foods that will cause bladder over-activity (e.g., caffeine), treating constipation, and proper voiding (in a timely fashion and complete) also help.

If urinary incontinence persists, either biofeedback training (if patients have a hard time emptying their bladders completely) or the addition of bladder-relaxing medications are options. If treatment is still not successful, a video-urodynamic study will be scheduled in the office which is a test where a bladder catheter has to be placed to specifically study bladder function and to determine the exact cause of incontinence.

Typically, one or a combination of treatment modalities paired with continued toilet training and time to allow the urinary system to mature will successfully manage urinary incontinence in affected children.

If you have any more questions or concerns about urinary incontinence at school, click here to contact the pediatric urologists at Georgia Urology.

Common Pediatric Urology Sports Injuries

Low Angle View Of Male High School Soccer Players And Coach Having Team Talk about common pediatric urology sports injuries.

By Dr. Edwin A. Smith, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.C.S.

Sports are a great way for kids to work on their physical health while also learning important lessons about community, commitment, and responsibility. However, sometimes injuries related to these sports are unavoidable. Issues like concussions and orthopedic injuries are commonly discussed, but did you know there are also very serious urological injuries young athletes can experience? To help you and your children prepare in case the worst happens, we’re discussing common pediatric urological injuries from popular children’s sports.

How common are sports related genitourinary (GU) injuries?

Genitourinary trauma includes injuries to the kidneys, bladder, and genitals (testes, vagina, and penis) is reported to represent an important 10% of all pediatric traumas. Notably, emergency room and hospital-based national injury and trauma registries have identified sporting injury as the cause of one-third of genitourinary injuries in children thereby making it the most common cause of pediatric GU injury. Trauma registries may actually underestimate the real number of injuries because they do not include less serious injuries treated in outpatient clinics and physician’s offices.

What sports activities are most likely to produce genitourinary trauma in pediatric patients?

Involvement in sports activities can be an important part of a child’s development. Knowing which activities are more likely to be associated with injuries helps parents and children become more aware and take proper precautions while still enjoying sports participation. For instance, one-third of genitourinary sports-related injuries occur with bicycling making it the most common activity associated with genitourinary injury. The majority of kids enjoy bike riding so it is not surprising that this activity tops the list. Also, the riskier form of biking including off-road biking and extreme sport biking are becoming more popular.

Injuries related to team sports such as football, baseball or softball, basketball, soccer, and lacrosse are also common, particularly among boys, and combined these activities represent another third of all injuries. Kicks to the groin, helmet contact, or the impact of a fast-moving ball as with baseball or lacrosse can cause serious damage to the testicles. The most serious injuries to the testis occur when the testis is hammered against the pubic bone resulting in a contusion, bleeding inside the scrotum, fracture or rupture of the testis. Some injuries may not be correctable and may result in loss of a testicle. Fortunately, most patients that sustain injuries with team sports are evaluated and treated in the ED without inpatient admission.

How Can Common Pediatric Urology Sports Injuries be Avoided?

Genitourinary injuries from bicycles are usually from falls or straddle injuries and most bike injuries occur from collisions with the “top bar” or the handlebar. Using a properly fitted bike, properly padded seats, padded top bar and attention to speed and surroundings will lessen the likelihood of jury.

Boy athletes that are participating in contact sports including football, soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, and hockey should wear an athletic cup made of hard plastic or metal. Boys should begin to wear a cup as soon as they are big enough for one to fit – usually around age 6 to 8. Proper fit is crucial and the cup must be held in proper position by an athletic supporter, jock strap or compression shorts designed to be fitted with a cup. The cup should fit firmly against the body and not shift out of place during activity. If your son is involved in a non-contact sport that involves lots of running, a jock strap or compression shorts without a cup are sufficient and will help keep the penis and scrotum up and out of the way. If you are uncertain what your son should be using, ask a knowledgeable coach or athletic trainer.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Common Pediatric Urology Sports Injuries?

Blood in the urine or at the opening of the urethra, inability to urinate, flank or abdominal pain, or swelling, bruising and tenderness of the external genitalia usually accompany genitourinary injury. To reduce the morbidity of the injury it is important to quickly identify and properly manage genitourinary injuries. If an injury has occurred there should not be any delay in getting medical attention for your child. Imaging with X-rays, ultrasound, CT may be necessary to fully assess an injury. While most injuries are managed with monitoring and supportive care and only a few with surgical treatment the determination of the best treatment can only be made after careful evaluation.

Special circumstances: Can my child who has a solitary kidney or testis still participate in contact sports?

Yes, boys with a single testicle or a history of an undescended testicle can participate in contact sports if they wear a protective cup. For children with chronic kidney disease or a solitary kidney, the current policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics is a “qualified yes”. This recommendation stems from the recognition that kidney injuries during contact sports are uncommon and catastrophic kidney injuries are even rarer. However, parents of children with kidney problems or solitary GU organs should carefully consider the risks and benefits of their child’s participation in a contact sport and make an informed decision only after consulting with their child’s pediatrician and urologist.

If you have any more questions or concerns about common pediatric urology sports injuries, click here to schedule an appointment with an expert Georgia Urology pediatric urologist.

Varicoceles in Children and Adolescents: When and How to Treat?

White blonde little boy around six at the doctor's office. He is with his mom behind him and the doctor is in front of him, examining him and discussing varicoceles in children.

By Andrew J. Kirsch, MD, FAAP, FACS

Physicians and parents alike are challenged by the management of varicoceles in children.  This blog is meant to frame the controversy and educate our patients and families on the current state of the art.  As will soon become obvious, shared decision-making is particularly important when considering the many questions that 15% of the male population and their parents need to consider. The first question below is a big question and charged in controversy.

Do adolescent varicoceles have a progressive harmful impact on male fertility?


A graph for varicoceles in children. Five blue text boxes in a row. The first says "adolescent varicoceles", the second says "testicular volume", the third says "semen parameters", the fourth says "hormone alterations", and the fifth says "male fertility". Each box has an arrow pointing to the next, and, to the left is a swooping line that includes all of the boxes with a question mark in the middle.

Determining the effect on future fertility is challenging for a variety of reasons

  • Limitations in obtaining/interpreting semen analysis
  • Unequal differential testicular growth during puberty regardless of varicocele
  • A long lag time between varicocelectomy and attempt at paternity
  • To add to the confusion, there are no current professional guidelines for children and adolescents

There are 2 main debates among expert pediatric urologists.  The first is whether we should treat a varicocele surgically.  Here are the issues:

The debate to treat is supported by these facts:

  • Varicocele is the most common correctable cause of male infertility
  • Corrective surgery (varicocelectomy) improves semen quality

The debate not to treat is also supported by facts:

  • Men with varicoceles father children
  • Semen quality does not always mean there be a successful pregnancy

The second debate focuses on when to treat a varicocele. Here are the pertinent questions:

Do we treat all adolescents with large varicoceles and smaller testis on the same side?  If so, would we overtreat? Or, do we wait and only treat the infertile man trying to start a family? If so, are we too late? Will success be lower? These are the questions that are likely to torment parents of boys with varicoceles.

Here is some data that may help

In the pediatric age patient, the size or volume of the affected (left) testis compared to the normal side is key to helping identify who is at risk for future infertility.  Or is it?  There are many studies on both sides of this long-standing debate. Larger testis volume differences are associated with significantly lower sperm concentration and motility regardless of patient age or varicocele grade.  What is the testis volume loss of boys with varicoceles compared to boys without varicoceles?  A study looking at >400 affected boys compared to 70 normal boys showed that those with grade 3 varicoceles had left testis volume loss at all stages of puberty, but also right testicular volume loss compared to controls. In other words, both testes can be affected.

Many studies show that varicoceles are not progressive – they don’t get worse – and catch-up growth occurs without surgery.  However, in one study of 100 boys with an average age of 15 years, testicular volume differences > 20% lead to 2x odd of a lower total mobile sperm count.  The same study showed total testicular volume (TTV = right + left) <30cc lead to a 4x odds of a lower sperm count.  Almost all studies have shown that there does not appear to be any association between testicular volume loss and hormone abnormalities.

So, we have decided that surgery would be the best approach.  Is there a difference in outcomes?

When deciding upon differences in surgical approach – laparoscopic (Palomo), microscopic, or open groin incision, there is no good data to support one approach over another.  The rates of hydroceles (fluid around testis) or recurrence are generally low (<10%).

Let’s summarize Varicoceles in Children:

The dilemma regarding pediatric varicoceles comes down to these facts:

  • Our tools to identify subfertility are imperfect
  • Your urologist needs to evaluate all meaningful data
    • Testis size (TTV <30cc, TVD >20% )
    • Semen analysis when available
    • Status of “normal” testis
    • Hormone levels (not meaningful in young age)

Parental preference is key.  There’s no doubt about it – shared decision-making is critical to the management of varicoceles.  Advice to parents:  For the majority of boys with varicoceles it makes good sense to follow prospectively and treat conservatively.

Three Georgia Urology Pediatric Urologists conducted recent study published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine

The results of a study by Georgia Urology Pediatric Urologists Drs. Edwin E. Smith, Bruce Broecker, and Andrew J. Kirsch were published in the December 2015 edition of The Journal of Emergency Medicine. The study evaluated children who presented in the Emergency Department (ED) with febrile urinary tract infections (fUTI).

The objective of the study was to determine the impact of a patient’s demographics on hospital admissions for pyelonephritis (kidney infection resulting from a UTI).

Children aged 2–24 months presenting to the ED with initial fUTI were identified. Demographics, insurance status, laboratory studies, renal-bladder ultrasound (RBUS), VCUG, and hospital admission status were reviewed.

Read more here for the results and further information.